Yukimi-Buro: Seven Breathtaking "Snow View Baths" near Tokyo
While Tokyo doesn't see much snow during the cold months, many mountain hot springs and resorts are just a short trip from the capital. January and February are the best months to visit these facilities, as this is the period with the highest probability of snow. Here are seven places that can be visited on a day trip from Tokyo that combine outdoor hot springs with a magnificent scenery!
Enjoy Yukimi-Buro with a Train or Bus Trip from Tokyo
■ 1. Nisshinkan | a View at 1,800 ｍ
Located in the Joshin’etsu-kogen National Park at an altitude of 1,800 m, Manza Onsen sees 5.4 million liters of hot spring water gushing from its hot springs every day. The hot springs are immersed in nature and have Japan's highest sulfur concentration. Of the nine natural hot springs found in Nisshinkan, the outdoor bath Gokuraku-yu offers an outstanding view of snow-coated mountains.
InformationManza Onsen Nisshinkan | 万座温泉 日進舘
Address: 2401 Manza Onsen, Hoshimata, Tsumagoi-mura, Gunma Prefecture
· 1 night, 2 meals 6,630 - 31,650 yen
· Entrance to baths (if you're not staying at the hotel) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. / 1,000 yen
· Entrance to baths with meal (10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. / the resting lounge is available until 3:00 p.m.) from 3,780 yen
*Use of the dining hall requires reservation. The resting lounge must be reserved 3 days in advance
Access: From Manza-Kanazawaguchi Station on the JR Agatsuma Line, take the Seibu Kanko bus bound for Manza Onsen (45 minutes) and get off at the Manza Prince Hotel-mae stop. From here it's a 15-minute walk.
Website (Japanese-only): https://www.manza.co.jp/
■ 2. Awanoyu Ryokan | Bathe Surrounded by the Northern Alps
At the southern tip of the Northern Japan Alps in the Chubu-Sangaku National Park is Mount Norikura (Norikuradake). Nested at the foot of the mountain on the eastern side are the Shirahone hot springs. The large outdoor bath of Awanoyu Ryokan features gentle bubbles that cling to the body creating a pleasant sensation, due to its concentration of carbon dioxide. The air is clearest in winter, and the contrast between the white hot spring waters and the blue sky is superb.
This looks like a mountain inn right out of Japan's "good old days".
InformationAwanoyu Ryokan | 泡の湯旅館
Address: 4181 Shirahone, Azumi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano Prefecture
· 1 night, 2 meals from 20,520 yen
· Entrance to baths (if you're not staying at the hotel) 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. closed on Thursday) 820 yen
Access: Direct bus from JR Matsumoto Station bus terminal to Shirahone Station (check the website for details)
■ 3. Korakukan | Take a Bath with Monkeys! (If You're Lucky)
Korakukan is a long-established inn with 150 years of history. Because it is in a wildlife protection area, various wild animals live around its premises. It is the closest ryokan inn to the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park, home to the snow monkeys that bathe in the hot springs. It is said that in winter the monkeys sometimes come and soak in the inn's open-air bath.
The Jigokudani spring is a natural treasure gushing out from the bottom of the river. They say that it's been flowing for 35 million years.
InformationKorakukan | 後楽館
Address: 6818 Hirao, Yamanouchi-cho, Nagano Prefecture
· 1 night, 2 meals 12,100 - 14,300 yen (excluding tax)
· Entrance to baths (if you're not staying at the hotel) 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. / 600 yen
Access: From Yudanaka Station on the Nagano Electric Railway Nagano Line, take the Nagaden bus bound for Kanbayashi Onsen (15 minutes). Get off at the last stop. From here it's a 30-minute walk.
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.mountaintrad.co.jp/~korakukan/
■ 4. Hinanoyado Chitose | a Hot Spring Resort in the Deep Snow of the Mountainous Areas of Niigata
Matsunoyama Onsen is considered one of Japan's three major medicinal hot springs, alongside Kusatsu Onsen and Arima Onsen. Hinanoyado Chitose is located in the snowy Matsunoyama, an area especially known for snow in Niigata Prefecture. The hot spring is immersed in the silence of the mountains.
The street lined with hot springs is a classic Japanese view.
InformationHinanoyado Chitose | ひなの宿 ちとせ
Address: 49-1 Yumoto, Matsunoyama, Tokamachi-shi, Niigata Prefecture
· 1 night, 2 meals 16,200 - 33,480 yen
· Entrance to baths (if you're not staying at the hotel) 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., reception closes at 2:00 p.m.) / 700 yen
· Lunch (10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.) from 1,300 yen (meal only). Restaurant "Matsunoyamago" (closed on Monday)
Access: From Matsudai Station on the Hokuetsu Hokuhoku Line take the Tokei bus bound for Matsunoyama Onsen (25 minutes). Get off at the last stop.
*Pick up service only available for hotel guests. Ask for details when making a reservation.
■Read more about Ryokan Hinanoyado Chitose on DiGJAPAN!
◇Experience Japan's Countryside at Ryokan Chitose
■ 5. Gensenkan | a Secret Hot Spring Standing Along a Mountain Stream
The little-known Motoyu hot spring boasts a 1,100 year history. Gensenkan has three private spring sources that provide guests with four hot springs: an open-air bath, a large public bath, a rock wall bath and a Japanese Cypress bath. The facility stands along the Akagawa Valley, and it is surrounded by a deep virgin forest. In winter especially, guests can enjoy the open-air bath with its nigori-yu, a phenomenon that changes the color of hot spring water. This bath can change from green to white or black, depending on the weather. Revel in the atmosphere of a secret hot spring.
For breakfast, okayu (rice porridge) cooked using the hot spring water is served. When cooked this way the rice assumes a light cream color.
InformationSecret hot spring inn Gensenkan | 秘湯の宿 元泉館
Address: 101 Yumotoshiobara, Nasushiobara-shi, Tochigi Prefecture
· 1 night, 2 meals 11,340 - 18,900 yen
· Entrance to baths (if you're not staying at the hotel) 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., last entrance 6:00 p.m. May not be available on busy days. Takao bath only / 800 yen
Access: From Nishi-Nasuno Station on the JR Utsunomiya Line take the JR bus bound for Shiobara hot springs (45 minutes). Get off at the last stop. From there it's a 13-minute taxi ride.
A Bath for Hotel Guests Only!
■ 6. Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 | a Spacious and Spectacular Outdoor Bath
Among the 18 hot springs of Minakami onsen village, the Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 features Uenohara Onsen, a hot spring with a high pH value and a soft texture. Hotel guests can take in the snowy landscape of the Echigo Mountains from Chobo-no-Yu, a panoramic outdoor bath, and immerse themselves in a forest of Japanese white birth at Shirakaba-no-Yu.
For dinner, Minakami Italian serves excellent dishes made using local vegetables and other selected ingredients.
InformationMinakami Kogen Hotel 200 | 水上高原ホテル200
Address: 6152-1 Fujiwara, Minakami-machi, Tone-gun, Gunma Prefecture
· 1 night, 2 meals (Minakami Italian dinner) from 12,420 yen
· 1 night, 2 meals (buffet dinner) from 11,340 yen
Access: 1 hour by free shuttle bus from Jomo-Kogen Station on the JR Joetsu Shinkansen (reservation required)
Watch Japan's Snow Monkeys in Their Natural Habitat
■ 7. the Monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park | Exploring a Unique Hot Spring
When winter comes, humans are not the only ones who look forward to a hot spring bath. The Japanese macaques or snow monkeys live in snowy areas like the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Here you can watch these unique primates as they enjoy a warm bath in the natural hot springs, much like we do! Note that bathing is only for monkeys here, but you are sure to feel warmed up just from watching them.
Monkeys living in the snow are unusual worldwide, but quite common in Japan.
InformationJigokudani Yaen-Koen | 地獄谷野猿公苑
Address: Jigokudani Onsen, Yamanouchi-machi, Nagano Prefecture
Price: 800 yen
Access: From Yudanaka Station on the Nagano Electric Railway Nagano Line, take the Nagaden bus bound for Kanbayashi Onsen (15 minutes) and get off at the last stop. From there it's a 30-minute walk.
*This is a wild animals habitat. Watch your step and choose appropriate clothes, especially in winter.
*Please note that you're not guaranteed to see monkeys or other animals during your visit.
Snow and Onsen, Two Pleasures in One TripWhen thinking of snow in Japan, Hokkaido and the Tohoku region might be the first places that come to mind. However there are plenty of other places that have easier access from Tokyo and can be enjoyed with a one day trip.
Soak in soothing hot springs while gazing at a beautiful snowy landscape. Yukimi-buro is an unforgettable experience in the Japanese winter!
*Please note that the probability of snow varies for the locations introduced in this article. Depending on the weather or period of visit, the amount of snow might differ from the pictures above.
About the author
Miho Shinohara is a writer and photographer that makes gourmet food, street food, and interviewing people her life work. She loves islands and animals and enjoys travelling cheap and adventurous. Some of her favorites places are Inujima island in Okayama Prefecture and Sanagishima island in Ehime Prefecture. She recommends island hopping in Japan!
Pictures provided by each facility and the DiGJAPAN! Editorial department.
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 02 08,2019 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team